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Scratch Wireless review

on January 16, 2014 11:00 am

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A cell phone is the one tech item that almost everyone has.  It’s the most useful daily tech item that everyone uses, but it’s also one of the most expensive items to own.  A decent voice+data service will cost over $1,000 every year per person.  There are cheaper cellular services out there that can get you down to $35/month, but how about a service that’s absolutely FREE?  What’s the catch?  I’ll tell you about a new service provider called Scratch Wireless.

Before we start, let’s talk about the prices. Currently Scratch Wireless only works with one phone which you must get directly from Scratch Wireless. You will be getting the Motorola Photon Q. I’m not going to get indepth with the phone since this review is all about their service. But the phone is a slider phone with a qwerty keyboard, runs on Sprint’s 4G LTE, 4.3″ display, and runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The Motorola Photon Q will cost you $269. After the phone purchase, the service is technically free for the life of your device.

Free? What’s the catch? The catch is that voice+data+texting is 100% free when you’re connected on a wireless network. But texting is ALWAYS FREE even when you’re NOT connected to a wireless network.

So the question is: What type of cellular user are you? If you mainly use your phone for texting and the occasional phone calls, then definitely get this phone. If you’re always by a wireless network, then get this phone since even voice calls are free if you’re on the wireless network.

But what if you want to make calls when you’re away from a wireless network? Scratch Wireless offers a 24 Hour Pass or a 30 Day Pass plans for you to purchase and use.

24 Hour Pass
Data pass: $1.99
Voice pass: $1.99

30 Day Pass
Data pass: $14.99
Voice pass: $14.99

A 24-hour data pass offers up to 25 MBs of cellular data, and a 24-hour voice pass offers up to 30 minutes of cellular calling. A 30-day data pass offers up to 200 MBs, and a voice pass offers 250 minutes. The passes don’t seem to be a great value, but it’s useful for emergency usage. Plus most users are on WiFi 80% of the time. And of course texting is free on WiFi and cellular, and voice and data are free on WiFi!

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There’s a Scratch Wireless App that comes preloaded with the Photon Q.

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The app allows you to view your remaining usage for the data or voice passes.  It also allows you to purchase passes directly from the app.

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The app also makes it convenient for you to add a credit card to be associated with your Scratch Wireless account.

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On the dialer screen, you’ll see 2 buttons which allows you to switch between WiFi or cell calls.

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Under Call Settings, you can see that Scratch Wireless is using SIP (Software Internet Phone) for WiFi calls.

Call quality is extremely clear on both WiFi and cellular calls. The cellular service part is provided by Sprint, and I got full 5 bars in Northern NJ and in Manhattan. Scratch Wireless also allows you to port over your old existing phone number. Another great thing about Scratch Wireless is that there are no ads and no contracts at all. I definitely recommend Scratch Wireless if you’re a heavy texter or always near WiFi areas.

 

Product Information

Price:$269 for the phone
Manufacturer:Scratch Wireless
Pros:
  • Keep your old number or get a new one.
  • Take full control of your service.
  • Unlimited free texting on Wi-Fi and cellular.
  • Unlimited free voice and data on Wi-Fi.
  • No contracts, no ads, no catch—just free wireless service.
Cons:
  • A bit expensive on the paid passes

Comments

  1. 1
    DStaal says:

    Not too bad – competitive with T-Mobile prepaid plans, really. (Although T-Mobile will allow you to bring your own device.)

    Note the free voip phone service they have can be duplicated on any Android phone using Google Voice.

  2. 2
    Jhon says:

    Actually, 3rd party google voice apps will stop functioning in May of this year (talkatone, grooveip, etc). Including devices like the Obi100

    You’ll need to use Hangouts of which Im not really fond.

    http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/31/5052808/google-voice-to-deny-access-to-third-party-apps-next-year

  3. 3
    Jackie Cheng says:

    @Jhon – This isn’t using Google Voice for SIP. It’s probably using a proprietary SIP or a Sprint SIP.

  4. 4
    DStaal says:

    @Jhon Ouch, I hadn’t heard that. That means my cell phone isn’t going to work at home.

  5. 5
    Jhon says:

    Jackie:

    I know it isn’t using google voice for SIP. I was responding to Dstall’s comment that the same “Free” service could be achieved using google voice on any android phone.

    That may be true now, but it wont be true in May of this year.

    Dstall:

    Your cell phone SHOULD work — just with the app Hangouts. But it won’t be as reliable. At least in my experience. Hangouts is not well written in my opinion (at least as a simple PHONE app).

    You may wish to switch to callcentric (for sip). Free NY number (which you can have GV forward to), free incoming calls (~$1.50/mo E911 fee, though) and modest plans for outgoing calls. With GV, you COULD force your outgoing calls through GV call-back. Yes, you’ll need to jump through hoops, but you can “make it work”.

    Hope that helps.

  6. 6
    Geraldine says:

    I live in rural New Hampshire and got this to use in lieu of Verizon. Forget it. Can’t make calls on it. VErizon has good coverage in rural New Hampshire, but there is some Sprint and TMobile areas. Not as widespread as Verizon, but thought I’d be able to use it. I have cable internet with a 5g network. I can surf — but I can do that on my computer, so why do I need a phone to surf at home… To make a call, well, I have to buy a supplemental plan from Scratch Wireless. So no, this won’t work on any internet service, nor will it work everywhere.

    I hate paying for returns when things don’t meet their up to their sales pitch. It shows you how much faith a company has in their product when the fine print says you have to pay for shipping and returns — I guess they know they’re going to get returns, so it cuts down on their losses.

  7. 7
    Craig says:

    @ Geraldine – So for Scratch to work for you to make wifi calls at home using their smartphone you need to pay extra because of where you live? I thought the whole point is to buy the phone to make free wifi-connected calls.

    That sounds like false advertising on scratch wireless’ part. If you can, please confirm since I have been looking at them as an alternative to republic wireless, although I want to use their wifi phone service for travel! Also, did you try them at wifi hotspots and such?

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  8. 8
    Jackie Cheng says:

    @Craig – The phone and text services are always FREE on wifi. Text service is also FREE on cellular (Which runs on Sprint). Phone calls on cellular service REQUIRES a paid plan.

    If you’re always near a wifi area then this is the phone for you! I’m the reviewer of this and I’ve given this to my cousin to use. He loves it! And costs nothing at all for him.

    If you have any doubts then you can always give Scratch Wireless a call and ask them questions.

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